In the run-up to the race, my left knee was really painful and actually prevented me from doing any running before the big day. In fact, on the Friday when I traveled out to Paris it was actually painful to walk around while Iona and I did some sightseeing around the city. The only thing I could do was load up on ibuprofen and hope for the best.
On Saturday morning we had to go to the Marathon Expo which was on the outskirts of town so I could register and pick up my bib. I knew there were 40k competitors in the race but I didn’t expect them all to turn up that morning:
Anyway after navigating a queue for the best part of an hour, I managed to pick up my bib:
And also find a running partner for the race:
The best thing about the day before the race was I had a license to eat… I must have had about 5 meals during the day just to load up on carbs. Not only was I eating pasta at about 11am, I had Pizza Hut for the first time in about 15 years for dinner. They don’t say Paris is a gastronomic delight for nothing.
After a somewhat less than strenuous warm-up, I sauntered down to the start on the Champs–Élysées at around 8.30am for the start 15 minutes later.
Although it was a sunny, bright-blue skies, kind of day it was freezing at that time although I resisted the urge to wear, what was effectively a white bin-liner, as most of the other competitors did. I had chosen to run in the 4:15 group – essentially you got two pacesetters running with you at that pace for the entire race. I was pretty nervous but my fears were allayed when they played the 15 minute version of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” at volume 11 over the PA system. I think I knew then that everything would be alright…
The race finally started for me about 9:00am as we crossed over start line.
We headed east along the route which took me past the Louvre, then Notre Dame effectively heading east out of the city towards the Château de Vincennes – by this point I was about 6m (10k) in to the race, after about an hour and was feeling ok still:
For whatever reason, my knee was actually feeling fine that morning. The next hour or so was spent running round the large park where the château is situated. After hour two, I thought it would be sensible to take one of the energy gel packs I had brought along with me – for the uninitiated, and I was one until a week ago, these sachets contain isotonic carbohydrate energy which basically give you an energy boost for about half an hour without the need to eat anything.
The next part of the marathon, was probably the most memorable for me and that was running alongside the right bank of the Seine. We were right by the riverside going underneath each of the bridges with large crowds cheering you on from over head:
Just a note on the crowds which were fantastic. For the entire 26.2 mile route, there were huge crowds alongside cheering you along and offering support. This encouragement honestly made a difference and definitely helped lift you during the low points of the race. Amazing, amazing support.
After miles 18/19 (about 30k) and going past the Eiffel Tower on the left bank, I was probably about 3 hours in to the marathon. This was probably the most difficult part of the race for me. As you might guess, there isn’t much to do while you’re running apart from taking in your surroundings and your own thoughts. A lot of competitors run for charities personal to them in some way – for whatever reason seeing people with shirts with people that have passed away or currently afflicted really got to me. There was also a group of runners who were carrying disabled children around the course which was just incredible. I’m not sure if it was mental or physical fatigue, possibly both, but I could feel myself welling up. I knew I had try and just concentrate on my run and finishing the race.
The last section of the course took us out to the west of the city centre to a large park area called Bois de Boulogne. According to Wikipedia, it is “one of Paris’s most prominent red-light districts”. Now I find out! The last hour was hard physically but knowing I was on the home straight, gave me the will to keep going knowing that it would all be over soon. The only difficult point was when my Nike+ had decided that I had finished the marathon, whereas I knew I still had about 20 minutes to go based on the mile markers alongside the course.
Coming in to one of the final corners, I had a renewed sense of energy:
With the end finish in sight I was able to sprint the final 500 meters to finish the Paris Marathon in 4:15:41 seconds. It was such an amazing feeling to finish the race – a sense of achievement and also one of relief… it just feels awesome. I actually didn’t feel too bad after the finish line and went off to find Iona and pick up my medal:
Sunday 11th April was an amazing day, and one that I won’t forget in a long time. I have a sense of accomplishment in both running a marathon and also raising £850 for the British Heart Foundation. I felt before the race that I would either hate it and never want to do another one in my life, or that this would be the first of a few. I knew as soon as I finished that I’d want to do it again next year.
Thanks again for all of your messages of support and donations. There were appreciated more than you know!
If anyone wants to see more photos from the marathon, you can check them out here. A special thank you to Iona for her photography skills on the day and also for managing to navigate the Paris Métro to find me at various points during the race!